Every once in a while a band comes around that defies definition, a band so inimitable in its approach to music that it turns a genre on its head and leaves one wondering, “WHAT WAS THAT?!” Well, that’s exactly what Sweden’s best kept secret, Dirty Loops, has done with their debut album, Loopified.
Meet Dirty Loops — They are longtime friends and music school classmates Jonah Nilsson (vocals/keyboards), Henrik Linder (bass), and Aron Mellergardh (drums) who hail from Stockholm, Sweden and have made name for themselves with their twisted pop covers beginning with their take on Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” That video, which was made in the winter 2010 while the three band members attended Royal College of Music in Stockholm, became wildly successful with over 100,000 YouTube views and 10,000 Facebook shares in the first two month’s of release… without any promotion or social media savvy. The group’s videos have now garnered a total of 19 million YouTube views to date, and their first original single, “Hit Me,” has just entered theTop 10 in Japan.
Dirty Loops’ viral covers – which also include Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Britney Spears’ “Circus,” Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” (re-imagined as “Prude Girl”) – drew the attention of some of the biggest names in music today. Swedish producer/songwriter Andreas Carlsson signed the group to a management deal; producer/songwriter David Foster signed the group to his Verve Records and brought them on his tour of Asia in 2012; and the group has a long list of famous fans that includes Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Adam Levine, Dallas Austin, Rodney Jerkins, Brian McKnight, and Avicii.
“The reason we initially started Dirty Loops was just for fun and for a creative outlet. We were doing a lot of session work and we were creatively bored. We started doing covers just as a fun creative outlet for ourselves. It felt like freedom to us,” explains Henrik, a session bass player since age 16, of Dirty Loops’ beginnings in 2008.
It wasn’t just Dirty Loops’ clever choice of covers or exemplary musicianship (R&B/pop superstar Brian McKnight even called them “the most musical” band he’s heard) that sent the band on their rising musical trajectory. Rather, it was their distinctive approach to taking a pop song, and, well, “loopifying” it that resonated with everyone. “We chose these songs to cover because we knew we could do something very different to them. If we chose a jazz song and did our thing, it wouldn’t be that different. We like the contrast of genres,” explains Henrik, who cites the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea among his favorite bassists and Tribal Tech among his favorite groups.
Though the guys were having a blast putting some jazzy bass slaps and a funky sound on “Just Dance” or transforming “Circus” from a simple pop ditty to a fun fusion concoction, they didn’t think others would get their unique vision. “We thought the combination of fusion and pop was so unsexy that no one would ever listen to it,” laughs Henrik. He was wrong. “This has been so surreal. We never meant to be a band. It just happened. The only reason we even made a video in the first place was to have something to show bookers to get gigs just to play for fun,” laughs Jonah, who began singing in parents’ church choir at age 1 and playing the piano at age 11. (He never sang in a band, though, until Dirty Loops.)
That calling-card video – Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” – spread like wildfire simply via word-of-mouth. “People thought we had this social media strategy, but we didn’t even have a Facebook page or Twitter at the time. It really just happened naturally,” muses Henrik. Soon, record labels and management companies were hitting the band up on their MySpace page, much to the shock of the group.
The buzz made its way to Andreas Carlsson who surprised Jonah with a phone call one day that resulted in the band auditioning for the Swedish IDOL judge, who has penned hits for Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, and others. “He was the first person who had a vision for what we could do as a band and encouraged us to write our own songs. He understood us,” says Henrik.
Soon after, Dirty Loops had another big success with their twisted take on Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” “Aron called me at seven in morning one day saying the video has 125,000 views instantly. We were like, ‘What the fuck just happened?’ We hoped it would get 10,000 views. Andreas sent the video to David Foster and the next thing we know we’re heading to L.A. to audition for him,” explains Henrik.
While Andreas was the catalyst for Dirty Loops to transition from a cover band to a real band, it was David who was instrumental in pushing the band to their musical best. “We played an early version of our first single, ‘Hit Me,’ which was more basic; we hadn’t loopified it yet. David could hear that we were holding ourselves back and encouraged us to really go for it. After that, our sound just came together to what you hear on this record,” says Henrik.
The result is the trio’s 12-song debut album, Loopified, produced by the band, with executive production from Foster and Carlsson, which shows a quantum leap from being a creative cover band to a band that writes inventive, infectious pop originals. “We’ve been called many things, but I think our sound is more fusion pop; a mix between everything we’ve ever listened to growing up and now. It’s a mix of classical, jazz, and pop. It’s reimagined, well-arranged pop music. For us, to loopify pop music means to take a pop melody and put it into our Dirty Loops machine and what comes out on the other side is loopified,” explains Jonah, who notes that while he grew up on classical and choir music, the group’s main collective influences are Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and the Pat Metheny Group.
The album’s first single, “Hit Me,” took off organically in Japan in early 2014. “This was the first original song we did as a band. It came from an older idea I had and we really took our time working on it until we got it just right. Once we did, the rest of the album came easy,” notes Jonah. Lyrically, “Hit Me” is about “the desperation you feel when you don’t get the response you want from someone you like and you lose yourself in the relationship,” explains Henrik. This track, like the other original songs on the record was a true joint effort, with all three Loops collaborating (with assistance from Carlsson on many of the lyrics) to finish the songs.
For Jonah, “It Hurts” – one of two ballads on the album – is a song he’s quite proud of. “The melodies and choice of chords came from my heart. I wrote this song only on the piano, and it came to me very quickly, which is not the case on any of the other songs, which we work on more like sculpture where you carve out the frame and then go back and sculpt and get the details in until it’s just right,” he says.
Loopified also features two new covers, Justin Bieber’s “Roller Coaster” and “Wake Me Up” by Swedish DJ/hit maker Avicii,, who wholeheartedly endorses the band’s take on his 2013 international hit. “I love the Loops’ unique approach to their covers, including the one of ‘Wake Me Up,’ but also the sound they have captured in their own songs. I’m a big, big fan!” says Avicii,.
“Our goal is to keep developing, see no musical limits, and keep having fun. I think if you make something that you yourself really believe in, others will believe it too,” says Jonah. Adds Aron, “What would make us the happiest is for people to see that we are trying to do something new, something original.”
As Quincy Jones simply puts it, “Dirty Loops are just incredible!”